Researchers recently found that a pain medicine not only reduces oral cancer but it leaves healthy tissue undamaged, hailing it as a totally new way to treat oral cancer. Mice were treated with a drug called capsazepine. It shrank the tumor without damaging the surrounding tissue, what is thought of as a miracle in cancer research. Most cancer treatments, radiation therapy and chemotherapy, hurt surrounding tissue in addition to hitting cancer cells themselves.
School of Dentistry and School of Medicine researchers at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, Texas conducted the study. The results were published in the journal Oral Oncology. Oral cancer is quite common, ranking eighth in the U.S. where 40,000 new cases are reported each year. Oral cancer claims the lives of 80,000 annually.
Oral cancer can appear anywhere in the mouth, on the lips, the tongue, cheeks, and palate. It usually starts out as a sore that won’t go away, but other symptoms include speckled patches on the mouth, swelling or thickening of bumps, unexplained bleeding, a sore throat, chronic hoarseness, unexplained weight loss, ear pain, or sores on the face and neck. Those at risk for oral cancer are smokers or those who use tobacco products, those who have a family history of oral cancer, excessive alcohol users, and those who get excessive exposure to the sun. Normal treatment is surgical removal of the cancer followed by either radiation therapy or chemotherapy.
Capsazepine was originally developed as a painkiller, blocking a calcium channel called TRPV1 which neurons that sense pain possess. After it’s activated, TRPV1 sends a pain signal to the brain. But capsazepine not only blocks these signals, it blocks secretions from tumors from entering the TRPV1, which in turn limits the tumor’s growth. Still, more research needs to be done for these results to be conclusive in a way that would constitute it’s use for oral cancer treatment.